I went for a walk through the vineyards this morning for grounding. I woke up feeling I was floating above the floor carrying my head cradled in my hands. I push for the kind of achievement and validity that sends you soaring to unknown heights. It’s never high enough and the terrain during takeoff is always rougher. I feel I’m borrowing myself for some unknown task that is sure to crack the code and make it all worthwhile. I feel my feet on the ground and it’s a kind of gentle humbling–the skin a miraculous blanket between me and the elements. Scenes begin receding from my mind and I can feel a fullness in my stomach, the heavy, physical companion that settles in and reminds me that I am simply so sad. I am sad.
There are hints of something more in the wind, the plants, the birds, confetti-like crispy leaves. I feel September like a firm tap on the shoulder, reminding me I haven’t figured it out yet. Who would I be without the search? Maybe the fear is simply a paralyzing suspicion that there is really nothing at all. What are the planets, the music, the flowers? Scraps of projects left unfinished by a divine creator in the throws manic depression. Have we been abandoned? I tap away at my creations trying to emulate our long-lost celestial parent, playing hide and seek in the ruins.
Sadness is the dramatic, wispy follower of spinning frenzy. There is always fervor and chaos sloshing around in my core, ready to stop and dump me at the side of the road. It’s so hard to keep a lid on….me? I am an unwelcome guest in this incarnation. Nothing is authentic or mine. What am I supposed to do with all of this time and why does it pass so quickly? The paradox of boredom and growing old. I scramble in the dark trying to convince myself that striving for anything serves any purpose at all. Hard work and perfectionism are most likely illusions, yet I cling to them in fear of going mad. I deny myself happy moments like a kind of existential diet. I watch them pass by and keep a safe distance while proclaiming how lovely they all are– a spectator at a parade, smiling and laughing on the sidelines.
Sadness keeps me quiet, bobbing up and down and circling like a dead fish in the water. Frenzy reconnects me to the soaring belief in something heavenly tangible. I am foreign in sea and sky. I walk through the vineyards trying to adopt a character suspended between the two. Who am I? Each thud of a foot, the wind in my hair, flying about but still attached- signs there must be something imposing caught between sadness and madness. I imagine myself a piece of transcendental twine, twirling and yanking at the shores of humanity. I am something or someone. Now back to work.
There is a box of books in a corner I avoid. I’ve told myself it’s not worth the trouble. My young mind couldn’t handle who was hiding in there and I’m not yet proud enough to assume I’m able to today. She was ravenous and loud, ready to swallow and define anyone who crossed her path. She was unbridled and inappropriate and went off the rails. Out of necessity there followed a string of humble, contemplative years. She’s still there, packed away like a sloppy ending. She sometimes creeps out, bleached by the sun and is gently shelved as pathology. She is so proud yet hurt by stunned faces who shield their eyes from her. She is a princess, demanding and regal, yet vulnerable and easily swayed.
Not even all the courage, collected like trophies at every trial, can openly acknowledge her birthright. We live a life that flippantly restrains brilliance. Nothing may exude its own light, like the moon, condemned as the eternal reflective companion. We live in the dark and blend in during the day. We hardly dare to write our own mythology, in fear of glossy packaging and frizzy, matronly hair, corporate tattoos.
I am deathly bored. I am suffocated in chameleon costumes. I am dying a slow death of fear and refusal to swallow. I sit at a table of cardboard cutouts and throw paint hoping to compromise their flimsy form. Rebellion is a bore. Refusing to fit in is a form of cowardice. Truth comes in the creation of a new palace and a courtyard full of dancing life. There are gardens of mirrors and banquet tables filled with blank pages and raw materials. Her book is wide open and read aloud; we are free to faint in overwhelming, endless altitude. Here she is reconciled, in the palace of the heart, unbound. Confusion and ecstasy are embraced and refined. Love and transcendence circulate freely as stimulants.
This is the woman in hiding who longs to dance as close to the edge as the material plane allows. If she falls, may she be a brilliant planet falling from the sky, disoriented and flung to new heights.
Fearing the ordinary: a seemingly low-grade infection and subtle gnawing. Really it’s a fear of losing the ability to sense the extraordinary even in mundane moments. I grow older and more desperate for it, yet also more refined in the search. Rituals and reading stave it off by the hour. Sometimes scavenging for new experiences sets the stage.
A girl on-stage–not the performance itself but the moment before performance. She’s posed waiting for the intro of breathy strings to pass and the wind is blowing through her red hair. There’s a tiny hush in the bustle of the crowd and I feel the hair stand up on my arms. It’s fleeting yet defining. Does feeling this way lie in my own ability to perceive and thereby create it, or do moments like these occasionally cross over from some other plane? I am thrown to exasperation and irritation in times of lack.
I am raised to the heavens in moments of intimate, unbridled connection and in the ethereal essence of devoted action. Without it I’m trapped in transitory and futile. I feel it as a call for a new God-form, and with it a life of regimented service to the sublime. I feel it in the dedication and sacrifice of the body to a higher calling.
I step into uncharted territory and begin to fear myself. I feel I’m present yet attached to the stars, the tail of the Scorpion. Once I’m standing on the shore between myself and the unknown, I’m overtaken by the enormity of the waves and feel the ground slipping away. This is the line I aspire to live on– the depth of the waters versus the dried out shell of who I pretend to be. It is on this line between the two worlds where inspiration and creation arises. There must be some lifeline between them that serves to protect those whose nature demand they take the voyage.
I hear otherworldly, celestial voices in the planetary hum of our existence. I feel an awakening consciousness in my body. I open my new, luminous hands like a seashell and innocently outstretch them to others who find it “too hard to handle.” A refusal of food, a prayer, a painting, a dance, the sound of a violin; dare to look at the true source! Who are we when heaven descends to earth? How do we achieve a sense of grounded ecstasy? Can we overcome the fear of our own intensity and channel it into a language of revelatory magnificence? Can we learn to share ourselves with one another in starry territory? I am living to know.
My limbs are tethered to a shadowy great wing, unsure whether they are fleeing or willing captives. It’s such a riddle to see one’s own spirit embodied in the illusion of dueling, passionate entities. Is it I or the familiar eyes staring into mine? I see my seemingly private afflictions reflected in every struggle to comprehend romantic holographic encounters. The projection of love- the task of understanding the other only to ironically return to yourself. I, the initiator of vibrational images of unfettered intensity- the woman who loves unconditionally. The story, a brilliant thought-form, materialized as a truth of unmatched authority. How I love, how dearly, packed into combustible cannisters of volatile creative force. My cupboards are overflowing. I am incapable of coming to terms with my own creation. I am a wounded spiritual force, living in fear of its own potential. Is there not some other hologram willing to share the burden? I’m lost on this plane of existence unwilling to extinguish the light that is mine and mine alone. I live as a woman walking circles in the garden of herself. I call out to witnesses with lovely porcelain and sweets. Are they poisonous or liberating? I eat and drink and love him so.
Every once in a while something still manages to sweep me away. I see or hear something that strikes a chord in me that feels real. I feel that way when I listen to Karen Carpenter sing. Her voice is perfect and polished and yet there is a painful undertone. It’s a wounded perfection that speaks volumes to those of us who feel it but can’t seem to give it a tangible outlet. Being heard and validated over the radio waves is a very sophisticated form of art. Ears all over the world perk up because she was able to say something we can’t. It feels like looking into a musical mirror and seeing myself–an elusive reflection of validation.
Invalidation. The shame of existence. You have everything you need, what reason could you possibly have for despair? It starts in childhood. They whittle away at the fire inside until it’s nothing but a nostalgic memory. The sandbox was a place we believed we could dig through to the other side of the earth. The pavement was a stage for elaborate theater productions. The trees were enchanting companions with familiar roots and rustling whispers. We played big and had big inspired dreams. Now it’s the strict adherence to a long checklist of stress and strife for a vague, mandatory reward. The joy of the endeavor, just a flat phrase from a self-help book.
One after another everything that once brought joy fades away. The questions of why we’re here and who we are become a desperate, malevolent mystery when once an exhilarating opportunity for play and discovery. What’s left to grapple with but losing loved ones and physical and mental devaluation and depreciation.
They call it depression. Watch out for addiction and disorder. You have to want to get better! You learn to hold it inside because telling anyone means they’ll be looking for an expiration date. They’ll be there for you with a watchful eye waiting for you to say it’s all better. They’ll target you with their religion and advice. It’s a well-intentioned reinforcement of the loneliness of emptiness and shame. There’s no excuse for depression when you have everything they say you need! Deep down inside you know it’ll never really end. There’s no antidote, but there’s music. A momentary escape to a plane of existence where there’s no emptiness because there’s a vibrant, vibratory version of you to fill the airspace.
I’m too fat. I can’t withstand pressure. I’m judgmental. I procrastinate. I waste money. I’m ungrateful. I can’t get along with people. I complain constantly. It’s a never-ending circle of shame, but the songs hold me. If I hear beauty in them, they must be in-sync with something in me. There is still something sweet and beautiful in me. I can’t put it into exact words but thank God for those who compose and bare their musical soul for the rest of us.
Maybe it’s a song or a poem. Maybe it’s a fashion design or a drawing. Whatever you do, if you put yourself in it, others will see you in themselves. Art is the mirror of validation. It allows you to exist despite the shame. It allows you to see yourself and be seen. It’s outside of time and accessible to all, the vehicle of ultimate transcendence. The courage to bare parts of yourself you’re ashamed to indulge in the cage of depression will lead you to the other side of mirror–to yourself.
Getting caught up in devastation and timid retreat is a way to avoid facing your own potential. Fear of failure, trembling and shortness of breath take up space where the full expansion of the creative life-force might otherwise dwell. The point of stillness where art emerges is a birth right. Each of us is capable of finding it if we’re willing to put aside all that is untrue. Clinging to falsity is to indulge in the fearfulness of the ego– where we walk away from divine manifestation and ourselves.
The evaluation of achievements and criticism can serve as an opportunity to choose between the thief of creativity or invigorating advancement. Nerves and blackouts, stage-fright and neglect of spiritual routine are excuses. I choose peace. I hear the sound of crashing waves and delicate harmonies instead of the rushing of blood to my brain. I choose to surrender the illusion of control that incessant worry gives us. We can face it all and let our true selves free. Let the child dancing in dress-up clothes and the thrill of a blank piece of paper and new colors remind you.
Who am I? I am not this fear. I do not succumb to a belief in inferiority. I am honest and pure expression. I am tangible energy and stunning craft-work. I am love in its infinite states. I refuse to withdraw or be restrained by any insignificant, demeaning thought-form.
It is gently raining and there is music- the somber ringing of a piano. A candle burns and I am alone with myself. There are rose petals, crystals and images of chiffon. I invite the scene to inhabit my space and coax my mind into a state of present awareness. I can summon beauty from my fingertips and the grace of aesthetic movement. Moving. Breath. Alive. Love. God is in creation. God creates. God is creation. Creation is of God. Love is a catalyst and passion the spark. Beats of a rhythm and the sequined stage lights of the starry sky are the clues to salvation. We are here as divine artists with a lifetime of material.
There is sadness and sometimes the heart ruptures at the sight of illusory death. It breaks open and re-tunes its reverberant strings. How it hurts and how empty it feels, this freeing of space- this destructive force of new beginnings. The shame of admitting the relief in letting go and the reluctance to feel joy in the midst of pleasurable stabs remind us of our inherent darkness. The deepest colors and grayest longings have their place. Tears and loss give us dimension and fill our ecstasy with mystery.
I am blessed with existence and a cup full of discovery and ambition. Even the years spent in despair are rich with introspective pauses and illuminating imagery. We are equipped with the gift of the body when the mind is too preoccupied to connect. We have fingers and silky hair. We have the breath to sing and eyes to peer into other souls. We have closeness and touch. We have embrace. All of these lead us back to love, back to ourselves, back to God. We must care for our bodies and hold our hearts sacred as a shrine to the purity and innocence ironically reflected in the depths of fallen grace.
Treat your art as you would a child, spared from fear and condemnation. Treat your heart as a treasure to behold. Free yourself from the weakness of shame and doubt. Inhabit the space of this life and be moved and ignited. Falling prey to illusion is a malady cured by connection with each other and the freedom of artistic creation.
For those who lack the proverbial “thicker skin,” growing older means watching the seasons erode the scaffolding of fantasy. I was a sensitive child and remain a fragile creature. My world exists within the same physical realm of those around me, yet is set apart and swarming with vibrational daydreams. Yesterday I read that a supermarket in the town where I spent every childhood summer has closed. I’m sure many felt sad to read it. I felt momentarily paralyzed. In my parallel reality, this was the place I reserved for “growing up”– whenever I would finally decide to do, it I planned to escape, work there and live in my cottage on the lake. Not only was a piece of my childhood closing, but so, too a piece of my future. So, too, yet another physical door to fantasy. While slamming shut it hit me how disconnected and distanced I float along my wobbly timeline.
There is a door in the kitchen of the cottage. I remember feeling goosebumps trail down my arms at the sight of it being left open to the stormy air. There was a screen door behind it and I could see the trees and some laundry drying on the line. Someday I would hang my grown-up things on that line. I would look out the screen window while doing dishes and wipe down the marble table that came from an ice cream shop that closed. I would take bubble baths in the claw bathtub and put on my makeup in the mirror of the antique medicine cabinet. I’d have dinner parties lit by moonlight on the deck and keep everyone alive with lots of music. I’d sleep with the grown-up man in the bedroom lined with windows overlooking the lake and wake up to the smell and sound of the shoreline.
There was an art gallery where I planned to sell my paintings and an outdoor stage where I would sing my songs and walk barefoot in the grass. I’d walk on the beach at Lake Michigan and watch the sunset every night. Friday nights I’d meet him at the end of the pier. Is there anything more wonderful than this? I’ve been ever so afraid and unwilling to pack up and pursue it because doing so might ruin it. It’s perfection and soothing to my childlike soul. I’m innocent and free there. Love still exists and troubles are washed away by the waves.
I stand there in my grown body from time to time. I look at the lighthouse and breathe in the charged and velvet air. If there is any place where I might set up shop and feel fulfilled, then only there. The sugar sand is gentle and giving; boats pass in and out through the channel. When I wave at them they always wave back and smile. No one can resent me on a moving vessel from a distance. It’s safe.
It seems I don’t exist apart from there. I live a fragmented and confused daily life. I don’t know who I am when my heart lives far away, pulsing at the top of the lighthouse tower and my needs are strewn in the dunes. When a building is torn down it is my bones, getting weak with age. When a new shop opens it is young and bustling life, overstimulating and confusing to an aging woman.
I have to learn to be brave and embrace what is. I have to allow others into my perfect parallel universe and feel enlivened rather than threatened by their realness. I have to let love evolve as a conscious force and not restrain it in the confines of my own imagination. I have to be brave enough to allow deviation and unmet expectations and cherish what stands before me. I have to talk to some of the people on the boats in real life and invite them into my realm. I have to learn to let go, let things change, wash away and materialize anew. That’s what the waves are for. Things change. That’s what the sand is for. Time passes.
Creation happens at the meeting between two souls, the border, the shoreline, the cliff at the edge of the abyss. It happens on the line where innocence descends into a dark, stony hole and that which lies at the bottom is purely uncertain. I have long sought a true merging, a coming together of mentor and muse, heart and lust. It is my deepest longing and sorely neglected need.
I stare deeply into Chopin’s portrait while feeling his music pulse through my aura. Gentle, spirited hands, manifested inspiration and a face lined with passionate knowledge gazes through me. It is the music made physical I seek; the merging of unfettered passion and vibrating harmony. The portrait, come alive.
All that I have to give remains bound inside the limitation of my own flesh. I feel the crude prison bars of the boundary between self and other. I embrace them and urge them to bend at will with incantations and unwavering faith. It is my spirit, lured ahead and the will to triumph that provides the impulse to continue.
I am lost in sex without alchemy and ill-returned passion. I stand alone afterward, bewildered and empty. The stage is the only refuge for feminine fulfillment. It is only there that body and soul intertwine and the prince eternally reveres his princess. Tears are nothing without function; a dancer lives through other means of expression. The loss of idyllic illusion drives her to reconcile the frivolous futility of music when withheld from barren physical reality. It is here she rediscovers her passion. How she longs to give more than a soulless exchange of lifeless matter!
Discipline replaces dreams; resignation replaces love. I tread on with a relentless striving for transcendence. How do I release desire for all that I am–the dream of someone willing to take my hand, dissolve and live for starry discoveries and unbridled human expansion? How many times must I sell myself to artless vulgarities? There is no frequency compatible with the ‘Song of Myself.’ It is lost in space-time, a sacrificial relic of romantic literature. The yearning to love is an affliction handled with ridicule and shame. Until it springs forth from yellowed pages, infused with life, shall I suffer.
Stage fright and fears of inferiority annihilated my princess soul. I was born a ballerina and never questioned my place at the barre as a little girl. It was such an integral part of my being that I hardly noticed when it slipped away. I assumed it always would be. I realized some time ago it had been 20 years since I’d been to a ballet class. It didn’t seem real! Ever since then I’ve been keeping a regular practice at home as a supplement to my main engagement of Irish dance. Yesterday as I was feeling the ecstasy of a classical barre workout, something inside me broke free. I felt a sob come from deep within my solar plexus and clutch at my heart. I finished the routine but later began to contemplate this strange, spontaneous fountain of grief.
I’ve never believed I belong anywhere. Everything is for everyone else, but not for me. I repeatedly feel a subconscious obligation to retreat from all that I love. It is a form of deep-seated shame that has held me in its grip since before high school. I feel ashamed to exist and participate. It is a pathological refusal to succeed. Instead of claiming a place in the world, I keep the idea alive in my soul and exile my body. The ballet movements stirred bodily memories of my innocence in pink, satin pointe shoes. They physically reminded me of a time when I belonged and felt my future was mine for the taking. Now I find myself suddenly in my 30s at the tail end of a ten year depressive fog. Everyday is a struggle to convince myself I deserve to be seen and take part anywhere with anyone.
The combination of classical piano music, wearing ballet slippers and the familiar, natural movement gave way to years and years worth of pulsating grief. I am an artist. I am a musician. I feel at home on the stage and anywhere artistic transcendence abounds. Why did I retreat? Why didn’t anyone help me? Where were my teachers? Why couldn’t I help myself? Am I ghost? Why do I feel so lost?
I intend to keep my ballet practice as a form of spiritual meditation. I will treat it as a daily devotional practice of finding myself again. I want to rediscover the childhood innocence that validates the princess and her art. My body will change and feel that it, too belongs. My mind will change and believe that it belongs together with my body and all of its capabilities. Quitting ballet was a form of disembodiment and dissolution of soulful unity. I can only look forward to discovering what a daily, disciplined practice will transform and bring into my life–my life as a dancer.
So many evenings spent in the studio toiling and sweating in hyper-focused concentration; falling into bed exhausted only to ceaselessly repeat the steps in your mind. Being there so often, you begin to take the friendships, laughs and struggles for granted. The music circles your bed in the air and you awaken only to continue training in anticipation.
The day arrives and the vanity table becomes a palace of glittering glamor. Rhinestones and diamond dust, vibrant color and fluttering lashes are worn as a testament to the endless hours you spent striving to embody the beauty of the art form. The final blissful moment comes when it’s time to slip into your costume– artistic embodiment.
Everyone seems different–excited, on edge and exhilarated. When the music begins you feel the stage under your feet and it’s as if a new world has burst into existence. The fabrics glisten in the light and you look out into an endless sea of cheerful, eager faces. At the last beat you feel full of pure, invigorated bliss. You took every bit of effort and care and created a beautiful, living gallery of movement. When the show is over there are hugs, smiles, even tears.
It’s this particular moment of dissolution that creeps in amidst the adrenaline rush so many of us endure. Suddenly you realize there will be no extra practice the following day. There won’t be anymore rehearsals or anticipation. The camaraderie that came into being ceases to exist the moment you leave the performance hall. You no longer belong on-stage or with anyone else.
This is the evening that I’ve learned to dread over the years; this is post-performance depression. I’ve tried to drown it in celebrations and activity. Speaking to those who have never spent long hours enveloped in the art of perfection feels lifeless. Evening sobs burst forth from the heart and you put your hands on your chest to keep it from leaking out onto the floor. A physiological reaction and tips to deal all dart forth from articles intended to soothe the woeful artist. How can anyone possibly understand? The only consolation is the promise of loftier and more exalted attainment. The creative instinct is a revered and irreplaceable affliction.